Monday, December 20, 2010

The Ripple Inn


I was excited to try the Ripple Inn—I often lament the lack of nice restaurants in Broad Ripple.   There seems to be enough bars for just about everyone, but I love Broad Ripple, live close by, and enjoy having a few finer dining type establishments as options.  Ripple Inn is located in the former Broad Ripple Steakhouse and the interior has not changed dramatically although the bar area now has additional seating and is more of an extension of the restaurant rather than a separate bar.  There is also an upstairs bar area called the “Parlor” featuring drinks and live DJs.   So maybe the Ripple Inn is attempting the best of both worlds—a nice restaurant for us old folks and a hipper bar area upstairs for the young folks. 
Anyway, as we walked in, the restaurant was still fairly empty, but continued to fill as we were there.  The restaurant was also freezing because of a problem with the heating system, but actually came on about midway through the meal.  Our server promptly greeted us and was extremely professional but also relaxed.  A refreshing change of pace from some of the overenthusiastic types and possibly undertrained servers I have experienced elsewhere lately.  When I asked her for some recommendations, she told me some of her favorite things, and not just what was popular, which I appreciate.  She knew the menu and could answer all of our questions.
There were 4 of us, so we started with three different appetizers to start.  We had the mussels, the potato dumplings and the lobster potato skins ($13, $9 and $10 respectively).  I was quite intrigued with the whole “Ripple Skins” section of the menu (several different variations of potato skins) since I saw the menu for the first time and knew I had to try one of them.
We all enjoyed the lobster potato skins.  There were 4 of them, and each freshly cooked potato skin contained a mix of cream cheese and crème fraiche with egg, caper and shallot and a lobster claw on top.  The bites I had with all the flavors were delightful.  The chef has done a great job of choosing great flavor combinations to give you some great bites.  The lobster was tender and not chewy at all.  The creamy cheese did not overwhelm the other flavors which was nice.  These potato skins were unique and very well done.  I am anxious to try some of the other flavors, including the traditional cheddar, bacon, scallions and sour cream.  I have a weakness for good potato skins, and they are hard to find freshly made anymore.
The chili-citrus mussels were also really good (possibly the best appetizer we had on this visit).  They are the smaller black mussels which are always my preference and these were done in a white wine broth with smoked chili citrus butter.  They were served with teeny crunchy fries (like matchstick sized fries) and sea salt.  The flavors of this dish were great.  The broth became a fairly thick and rich one with the flavored butter, but the wine and citrus helped to keep it from being overbearing.  There was  a smokiness from the chilis that made them more of a hearty flavor, but was not overly spicy in anyway.  It was a nice sized serving and I could probably happily eat this appetizer as my main dish.
The final appetizer we had was the Parmesan Pink Peppercorn potato dumplings.  Think large gnocchis that are seared on the edges.  These were also tasty, but probably my least favorite.  The dumplings themselves were very dense and filling and I could only eat a couple of them—the sautéed veggies on the side were great though.  They were simple, but exceedingly fresh.  It was a combination of shaved fennel, fresh spinach and halved cherry tomatoes in herb butter.  I loved the lightness of the sauce combined with the freshness of the veggies—I would love to see them served with some fresh pasta as a first course just to lighten it up a bit, although the dumplings are also nice and hearty for this time of year.
Hubby and I split the field greens salad.  It was excellent—one of the best salads I have had in awhile.  It had a ton of different stuff in it—apples, grape tomatoes, blue cheese, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds and I loved getting several different flavors in each bite.  The dressing is a Champagne-basil vinaigrette.  AND they split it for us in the kitchen, which you know I always appreciate.  The salad was outstanding and half was a perfect middle course.
One of our friends had the lobster bisque for their middle course and it was very good as well.  It was the kind of bisque I really like, not too thick, but with not too much tomato flavor—you could really taste the essence of the shellfish as well as the hint of Sherry.  The menu also listed smoked tomatoes as an ingredient and I enjoyed the very slightly smoky flavor as well.  Very well done. I am not a fan of bisques that are so thick they look like they would keep the shape of the bowl if you dumped it upside down, you know?
For my main dish I had one of the two vegetarian entrées, the Provencal Vegetable and Capriole Goat Cheese Wellington ($15) (I am a sucker for pastry-wrapped items).  This dish was quite lovely visually, a good sized round of pastry filled with layers of veggie and the goat cheese.  There were smoky roasted tomatoes and red peppers as well as nice tender slices of Portobello mushrooms.  The dish was surrounded by both a basil pesto as well as a tomato pesto which gave some nice additional flavors that added depth to the pastry and the goat cheese.  There were also asparagus spears and olives served alongside.  There was quite a bit going on, but I appreciated the fact that the thought that went into the vegetarian dishes was obviously the same as for the others.  I sometimes wonder how people can be vegetarians in Indy and eat out happily, as options are so often limited.  (By the way, the other vegetarian option was a mushroom and butternut squash risotto.)
Hubby had the ribeye which was a bit of a disappointment.  It was described as cherry-wood smoked with thyme butter and served with poached baby veggies, spinach arugula salad, autumn fruit chutney and cabernet glaze.  The flavors were well put together, but the meat itself was a little too chewy.  The veggies were also a little al dente for hubby’s taste.  It is also the most expensive entrée on the menu at $28.
One of our friends had the roasted chicken entrée though, and it was probably the best dish on the table as far as main dishes went.  It was fairly simple— half of a free range chicken roasted with lemons and herbs and served with 5 cheese macaroni and cheese, green beans and roasted tomatoes with a Champagne hazelnut sauce.  I loved that the chef has taken a simple ingredient—chicken; and prepared it in a simple way, but added lots of layers of other flavors to go alongside.  The chicken itself (at least the portion of the dark meat that I had) was very tender and the skin had wonderful flavor.  This was a dish that I would now consider ordering (and was also mentioned as a favorite by our server).
We shared two desserts.  One, the  “Bourbon Street” coffee and doughnuts was a bit of a disappointment—they were the New Orleans style beignets served with café au laite panna cotta.  So I am not sure if they meant for you to dip the little fried pieces of dough into the panna cotta, but it was much too firm for that, and the beignets too delicate.  I would have preferred some flavored liquid to dip them in.  We did really enjoy the peanut butter tart which was a butter polenta pastry square (but still light and flaky) topped with Chantilly cream (with peanut butter), bittersweet chocolate veloute, vanilla crème anglaise and praline crunch.  This one was yummy.  It sounds like a lot of stuff, but really it was still a moderately thin tart, and I enjoyed the deep flavor of the chocolate sauce and peanut butter cream and the crunchiness of the pastry and the praline crunch.  I would consider ordering this one again.
You know what I really like about the Ripple Inn? Everyone seems to care about what they are doing.  The server was great, and extremely apologetic about the heating situation. She gave us good advice on the menu and could answer every question we had.  And she wasn’t annoying.  The dishes seemed well thought out, and unique flavor combinations are the result.  Maybe potato skins don’t seem that unique, but ones with duck confit, crab, lobster and salmon (not all on the same one mind you)?  That is different. And fun. And accessible.  The food is generally cooked well, and presented well.  They have done a good job of taking ingredients people are comfortable with and made them a little bit more special.  You aren’t just getting mashed potatoes with your steak or your chicken, and the chef has thought about what goes with what things, and they are included in the dish, not served as generic sides like many steakhouses do these days.  Was it all perfect? No.  Some dishes were not as successful as others for sure, but I truly appreciate the effort.  I am looking forward to a return visit.
The Ripple Inn
929 East Westfield Blvd.
Indy, 46220

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